On the Piste
Jack Studio Theatre
Reviewed – 26th October 2017
“John Godber’s script remains fresh and is delivered beautifully”
Jack Studio Theatre is rapidly becoming a favourite haunt of mine. Tucked away in South East London, not only is it situated inside a very nice pub with great food and tasty cocktails, but the productions presented by artistic director Kate Bannister in this comfortable and compact space are varied and proving to be exceptionally good.
Two couples arrive in snowy Chamonix; long term partners Alison and Chris, trying out a snow-vacation for the first time, and new lovers Bev and Dave, novices on skis who are still learning about each other’s wants and needs. Neither couple is instantly enamoured with the other.
Coaching them from Health & Safety nightmares to sliding-down-a-slope-while-remaining-mostly-upright capability is the fit, flirty, perma-tanned and passionate instructor Tony (enthusiastically played by Robbie Smith), whose presence oozes potential chaos.
As their lessons progress we see what kind of people they may be, and how they deal with each other and interact with their attentive coach. During their après-ski drinks we learn their histories and secrets, their insecurities, cute quirks and annoying habits, and along the way – too much information about one couple’s bedroom role play!
The physical comedy is at the right level for me. I’ve never been a fan of slapstick and the play doesn’t rely on on stage pratfalls to make a point, leaving costume (and first aid) to move time along and tell the story.
A sense of distance between Chris and Alison (realistically portrayed by Andrew Agnes and Ellie Jackson) and a sense of discovery bursting through Dave and Bev’s burgeoning relationship managed to create almost non stop amusement (due partly to James Murfitt’s comic timing and Ceris Hine’s brilliant physical comedy). The audience’s laughs, though at times bittersweet, were universal.
John Godber’s script, originally written in 1990, remains fresh and is delivered beautifully, even during Bev’s toe-curling whine! A simple yet versatile set kept the focus on the performance. The very capable cast managed to maintain character through farce, fury and nudity despite being within touching distance of their appreciative audience.
On The Piste speeds slalom style from mountain to hotel, via sauna and cable car, towards an increasingly inevitable outcome. I found myself continuously giggling – I don’t laugh out loud often, but I made quite a few exceptions for this play.
Reviewed by Joanna Hinson
Photography by David Ball
ON THE PISTE
is at Jack Studio Theatre until 7th November